Vicar's Letter October 2015- Liturgy

Catherine writes the vicar’s letter this month

Exploring the Mystery…

Over the past few months, a number of people have expressed an interest in finding out more about our liturgy: to know the ways we can find meaning and faith in worship; and to deepen our spiritual understanding of the words and actions we offer to God each week.
As some of you may know, the study of liturgy is rather an enthusiasm of mine, and I spent some time over the summer attending conferences which looked at two of the aspects of liturgy which can affect people who may not usually come into contact with formal worship.
The first conference was concerned with bringing people and nations together for services of reconciliation, especially where there are deep divisions, and both of the examples we looked at were situations where a nation had undergone the powerful searching process of a truth and reconciliation commission. Helping people to speak honestly to God and one another, without pretending to have false feelings, can provide the beginnings of a journey towards healing and forgiveness. Here making space for God to speak, hurt to be acknowledged, and love to grow is often achieved through the mutually acceptable language of the Bible, formal prayer and shared silence.
The second conference was an academic conference was about the way in which we worship can help us to grow as Christians. Many of the talks and lectures I attended were concerned about the way in which young people and those rediscovering Christianity or coming to faith for the first time find an encounter with God through liturgy. This encounter is a lifelong process and there were many truths there for those of us who have been engaged in formal worship from the cradle. As this was a conference which included people from all over the world and from many different denominations it was interesting to realise how much are different traditions can have in common in this respect.
One of the most interesting developments we shared was the renewal of an ancient practice of intergenerational sharing of faith: put simply, more church communities are getting together as a family, young and old, to share insights and teaching about the mystery of faith they have discovered through the liturgy. The results have been exciting and affirming for those taking part and have helped church communities to grow.
The best way for this sharing to happen is through informal discussion for half an hour after a service over a cup of tea or coffee. Traditionally three questions are raised: what have you noticed about the service: what may have puzzled or excited you? Where have you felt close to God? And what difference will this encounter with God make to your Christian life? This gives an opportunity for shared understanding and an exploration of the many different ways we encounter the mystery of God. For the early Church, this was a chance for teaching and theological development, which was known as mystagogical catechesis, whose insights led to many of the prayers we still use today. Teaching can still play a part where needed, but the most important aspect for us is to grow in joy and confidence in our faith.

We hope to make ‘exploring the mystery’ part of the life of our churches soon. Watch this space!



Sermon preached by the Rev’d Catherine Haynes at the Welsh Eucharist on 19th September, 2015, at St Thomas.

 ‘Tangnefedd’ (Pronounced tang – nev – eth: Peace, Jim, but not as we know it!)

(The living Word came down from heaven to earth, died on the Cross and lives in my heart)

It’s good that there are so many Welsh learners here today, because Welsh is the language of heaven and in order to understand the kingdom of heaven it is necessary to speak Welsh!  For, as far as the kingdom of heaven is concerned, there is one peculiarly welsh word which has so much to teach us:  tangnefedd.

There are 2 words for peace in Welsh.  Tangnefedd is the word used in the Bible and in our liturgy for peace – it is the deep peace of Christ.  It is not a peace which papers over the cracks, nor is it the mere absence of conflict (the Welsh for that peace is heddwch), but it is the hard-won reconciliation of the Cross.  In tangnefedd we do not always find an easy peace, but a desire to move towards reconciliation, an acknowledgement that such a peace belongs to the Kingdom of heaven, and that kingdom can come on earth.  ‘Gwyn eu byd y tangnefeddwyr, oherwydd cânt hwy eu galw’n blant i Dduw.’ ‘Blessed – or happy – are the peacemakers, because they shall be called the children of God’ – children who are in the process of growing in tangnefedd.

Tangnefedd is the treasure which is held in the clay jars of our humanity.  We are frail, we fail, we may struggle to forgive; but the treasure of God is the tangnefedd Christ made with us on the Cross.  As we recognise the tangnefedd within ourselves, we can bring tangnefedd to others: since we have the mission to be ambassadors for Christ.  In Acts Paul reminds the early Church that they need that tangnefedd to hold together and to encourage one another in difficult times.

When I was away this summer at a conference in Montreal, Archbishop Fred, the primate of Canada, told us a story about how at the last Lambeth conference (where there were some serious differences), the bishops were invited to “seek out the person with whom you need to have a conversation.” Good advice, although not always easy advice, not only for bishops. Tangnefedd is recognising Christ in the person with whom we need to have a conversation, and not being afraid because Christ is already there.

In the Eucharist we carry Christ within us, and we become bearers of tangnefedd. So, as we share the peace today, we share tangnefedd. If we are sharing tangnefedd properly, we need to understand that tangnefedd takes time, and so we have to take time over it. Tangnefedd is not an annoying intrusion into the liturgy, but rather an integral part of our incorporation into the Body of Christ, a re-membering (putting the limbs back together, as well as making the past present) of our communion, and so we prepare ourselves to carry Christ and His tangnefedd within us.

Tangnefedd is the opportunity (maybe or maybe not literally) to fall into one another’s arms, to recognise that we all suffer pain and we all have a need for healing and for love. God’s call to us is a call to share his love, as He has shared His love with us. But it is like the call that Jeremiah heard, which seemed impossible to one so young before God  reminded him that he would be with him, at his side to carry him through trouble.  Responding to this call to love may not always seem possible this side of heaven, but we do not respond to God’s call in our own strength.  Jesus tells us, ‘You did not choose me, – no, I chose you.’ God’s call to us to bear the fruit of tangnefedd is always accompanied by the promise of His grace, new every morning, again and again.

Tangnefedd yr Arglwydd a fo bob amser gyda chwi.  The tangnefedd of the Lord be always with you.

Food Banks in Monmouth

St Thomas Church is part of the Monmouth & District Food Bank based at the Baptist Church in Monk Street. The Food bank is open on Fridays 10am-12md.

Clients receive food vouchers from accredited agencies such as CAB, Health Visitors, One Stop Shop etc before coming to the Food Bank.

The bank is happy to receive all donations of in date tinned and packaged foods. We also need men & womens’ toiletries. Collection points are in the Library, St Thomas Church & Waitrose.

Maggie Riches is a Trustee for the Food Bank, email Maggie here

Saturday Meditation Group

Monmouth Priory, Saturdays 9.15 – 10am

Our meditation group has been meeting for over 15 years now.  From 9.15 we arrive quietly and settle down to quiet music. We then have a short reading from Lawrence Freeman, leader of the World Community for Christian Meditation. After this, there is a period for silent prayer.

We finish at 10am and many of us stay for the Saturday morning Coffee Shop in the Priory, hosted each week by a local organisation or charity.

We meet upstairs in the Priory Quiet Room- a stairlift is available.

You are very welcome to join us!

Vicar's Letter September 2015- Eucharist

Dear Friends

At the heart of Anglican worship is the Holy Communion service; the Eucharist (the thanksgiving meal); the Mass (the sending out to do God’s work). The breaking open of the Word followed by the breaking of bread and pouring of wine shared amongst God’s people as the body and blood of Jesus Christ – an outpouring and sharing of God’s love into our lives. Rather than what happens being made up each time by whoever leads the worship, the service follows a set format. We call this liturgy. The word derives from a Greek word leiturgia, which means an offering of service of the most expensive and precious kind. Our liturgy sits at the centre of our work as a sacramental community, because through the sacraments, God provides us with the grace and strength to go out into the world as witnesses to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and participants in God’s kingdom.

Worship is meant to be at once heavenly and earthly, seeking to evoke the beauty of Christ’s promised reign by taking the things of everyday life – wheat and grapes, bread and wine – and, through our prayers and by God’s grace, transforming them into the profoundly holy. We become what we eat – we become transformed by God’s holiness and are invited to share such holiness with all whom we meet and with all whom we live and work.

Our worship engages all the senses – your ears will hear the sounds of hymnody and bells, the spoken and sung voice; you may touch the stoop of holy water as you enter certain of our churches, making the sign of the cross over yourself to recall your Baptism, and you will touch the hands of each other in the passing of the peace. Your eyes will see light and shadow, brilliant iconography, and the bright colours in stained glass and of the textiles of the vestments; in St. Mary’s, you will smell incense as it rises towards heaven as a sign of offering and prayer. Above all, you will taste: taste the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation, taste the very heavenly banquet prepared by Christ himself for his people throughout all ages.
Visitors often comment, after attending services across our group of Parishes, upon the sensual experience of worship and how it uplifts and speaks in a way in which words alone cannot. Our Eucharistic services are a form of three-dimensional prayer, which draw us to contemplate the beauty and majesty of something above and beyond ourselves: the love and majesty of God. In the Monmouth Group of Parishes, we have five Eucharist services to choose from in our churches Sunday by Sunday, and up to four available during the week. Each is different in setting and style, yet each one has in common the opportunity to nourish us by God’s love in the form of the Body and Blood of Christ. Do try to encourage your neighbours and friends to come with you and experience worship along with the warmth of welcome which is to be found in all our churches.
Yours in Christ
Fr David

St Thomas' Music Group

musical instruments by the altar of St Thomas' Church

St Thomas’ music group leads the worship at the Family Eucharist, at 9.30 on the first Sunday of the month. The group is made up mainly by young people, and we are fortunate to be supported by a couple of music teachers.

We have a wide variety of instruments; trumpets and a horn, clarinets, piano, cello, guitar and harp. The group usually rehearses from 3.15pm on the third Sunday of the month, and plays for Messy Church when they come into St Thomas’ Church for their short service.

In the summer, David and Catherine provided a wonderful picnic on the Kymin to thank the music group, and a good time was had by all!

Fr David's Sermon 13 Sept 2015

Pentecost 16 Year B

“But turning and looking at His disciples, he rebuked Peter and said— Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind, not on divine things, but on human things. ‘

One minute Peter is praised for getting the answer right, when he recognises Jesus as the Messiah; the next minute he is severely reprimanded for revealing his wrong understanding of what “Messiah” means. It is a turning point indeed.

Up to this point, in Mark’s Gospel, the exact nature of Jesus as Messiah has been kept secret. Do you re-call from the Gospel readings since Pentecost from Mark’s Gospel, how people kept wondering who Jesus really was? In the Capernaum synagogue — “What is this? A new teaching — with authority?” Remember in Chapter Four — “Who is this, that even the wind and sea obey him?”

Remember, too, how in the early chapters, only the evil spirits and demons recognised who Jesus really was: “I know you, you are the holy one of God!”

The unclean spirits in Chapter Three shout — “You are the Son of God”. Recall, also how amazed people are when Jesus heals the sick in Chapter Five, and in Chapter Six, how people speculate that Jesus might be John the Baptist come back to life, or Elijah or one of the prophets of old.

Jesus’ real identity had been a well-kept secret right up to the moment when Peter spoke out — “You are the Messiah”. What would your answer be to Jesus’ question: “Who do you say I am?” How much do words like Messiah — Christ — Son of God — Saviour — Redeemer really get to the heart of the matter for you?

What about — “The propitiation of our sins” — or, “supreme mediator between God and humankind”?

What about words such as — teacher, healer prophet, priest, king, shepherd — do they get to the heart of who you know Jesus to be? What kind of answer would you give? What kind of answer did Peter mean?

Ever since he had been called away from his fishing nets, Peter had felt himself drawn deeper into the mystery of Jesus very being. Peter had listened to the stirring teaching and recognised the voice of authority. He had witnessed the

remarkable acts and recognised the unprecedented power, as lepers were cleansed, demoniacs released, storms stilled, and the dead raised. It must have been so disturbing,

Ever since he had been called away from his fishing nets, Peter had been struggling to give voice to his growing conviction — and now at last he could contain his conviction no longer. He spoke out and heard himself say — “You are the Messiah!”.

It must have been so disturbing. No sooner had the words left his lips than Peter saw the smile leave Jesus’ face. No sooner had Peter looked into Jesus’ eyes to receive the affirmation of faith, than he heard the voice of rebuke. It must have been so disturbing. No sooner had Peter unfolded his vision of Messiahship, than Jesus cuts in and stands the concept on its head. No sooner had Peter contemplated regal glory, than Jesus spoke of suffering, rejection and death. It must have been so disturbing.

No sooner had Peter penetrated the depths of divine intention, than Jesus calls him “Satan” and accuses him of setting his mind on things that are human not on things that are of God. It must have been so disturbing. A turning point, indeed.

From this point in Mark’s Gospel — the fact that Jesus must suffer is made a reality. And, Jesus implores: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

The challenge presented to Peter, and to us, by the words of Jesus, is to build the kingdom of God. But…”deny yourselves” and “take up your cross” – does not mean we should punish ourselves; these words do not mean we condemn ourselves to a life of self-inflicted hardship. It is that judgemental, controlling constraining ego, we have to die to. That source of guilt and self-criticism that causes a paralysis of self-esteem and may lead to an intolerance of others and other ways, which will stunt our growth as individuals: that, is what we must die to. To “take up our cross” does not mean we should welcome every bit of suffering which comes our way and drags us down. It means we should be constant and faithful in following Christ, where ever we are led.

God’s kingdom can only be established by subverting the values of the world. By a willingness to embrace lowliness and humility.

If we want to know how to be a Christian; a follower of Jesus – the question to ask is: “what would Jesus do?” The answer is: take a bowl and a towel; get on our knees and wash feet. No picking and choosing whose feet. Everyone’s feet. Even the feet of those who would betray us.

After Jesus was betrayed, he rarely spoke again. The earthly ministry of Christ — the Messiah — was completed almost in total silence. The silence of love. No speaking, just giving.

With its obsession for soundbites, explanations, justifications, objectives and accountability, in the eyes of the world, the silence of Jesus — as he was nailed to the cross – was the silence of failure. In the eyes of God, it was God’s creation healed.   Amen.


Tommy Tiddlers Playgroup

Thursdays, 9.45—11.15 and from 1.15—2.45 during term time at St Thomas Church Hall.
Child playing

Formed June 2006 by the Mothers’ Union and volunteers, Tommy Tiddlers was created to offer a space on a Thursday morning each week for children to enjoy play and chatting with each other and for mothers, fathers, grandparents and carers (we get them all) to have time to relax and socialize in a safe relaxing environment, forming new friendships and giving support to each other. We then started afternoon sessions in the October of 2007.

For a nominal £1 per family, children, parents and guardians enjoy being surrounded with toys along with endless cakes, biscuits, and endless cups of tea and coffee, with birthday cakes to celebrate children’s birthdays.

The sessions always end with the singing of nursery rhymes, accompanied by musical instruments. Lots of fun had by all!

For more information, contact Brian and Margaret Pearce, 716057